Crew Shortage Causes P&O to Cancel Cruises on Arcadia 

crewing issues force P&O to idle cruise ship Arcadia
Arcadia will be idle for nearly three months while P&O reassigned crew to its other ships (Estevoaei photo CC by SA 4.0 license)

Published Apr 11, 2022 2:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

P&O Cruises, Carnival Corporation’s UK-based contemporary cruise line, is temporarily removing one of its cruise ships from operations reporting that the line is facing crewing issues related to the pandemic. Over the past two years, shipping lines, unions, and major trade organizations have all complained of the crewing crisis caused by travel restrictions and health regulations. 

The 83,781 gross ton cruise ship Arcadia had just returned to service after having been idle for two years. “The current and extraordinary impact of COVID-19 in the UK, in the wider hospitality, service and airline industry as a whole has resulted in a temporary disruption to crewmembers available to join our ships,” the cruise line announced reporting that seven cruises would be canceled. Due to return to the UK tomorrow, April 12 from her first cruise which had sailed to the Canary Islands and Spain on March 27, Arcadia will be idled until July 5.

The cruise line responded to the barrage of negative comments from vacationers scheduled to sail on the upcoming cruises aboard the ship. Many said they had been waiting two years or longer for their cruise noting that they had specifically selected Arcadia as the ship which accommodates 2,094 passengers is reserved for adult-only cruises. 

“The impact of Covid upon airlines and general disruption has necessitated the cancellations as we need to move crew from Arcadia to other ships in the fleet,” P&O responded to disappointed passengers. The cruise lines have been working to recruit and train crew, especially for the hotel areas of their operations after having repatriated the majority of their hotel crewmembers early in the pandemic to countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, and India. While skeleton deck and engine crews remained aboard the ships during the lay-up, without passengers the majority of the hotel crews lost their employment.

Arcadia was the sixth P&O cruise ship to return to service and normally operates with a crew off 866. When she resumed service in March, P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said, "We’re back sailing and this is certainly cause for celebration. Sunday is an important milestone as we will have all six ships back in operation and doing what we do best.”

The cruise line did not say if the crew shortage was being caused due to other crewmembers testing positive for the virus or if they needed more crew for the other ships as the line ramps up operations. P&O had started limited cruises last summer under the UK program for domestic cruises and later expanded including operations in the Caribbean this winter. Another of the company’s ships is currently restarting cruises to Scandinavia.

P&O also found itself having to respond to travelers that were associating the crew issues with those at another company P&O Ferries, which fired 800 members of its crew in a cost-saving operation. P&O Cruises was forced to repeatedly explain that while they share a name, the two companies are not related and that they have been part of Carnival Corporation for 20 years with no shared ownership with DP World which acquired the ferry operation.

Earlier this year the cruise industry faced challenges as passengers and crew were both testing positive as the Omicron variant spread quickly. P&O’s sister cruise line Cunard Line which is also owned by Carnival was forced to curtail the Christmas-New Year’s Cruise aboard its flagship Queen Mary 2 because the vessel was lacking crew after an outbreak of COVID-19. U.S. passengers were flown home from the Caribbean while additional officers and crew were flown to the cruise ship which remained in Barbados.

P&O is seeking to assure customers that its operations will be up to standards and offering refunds to passengers on the seven cruises it canceled.


Top photo: Arcadia in Coruna during her first cruise in 2022 - photo by Estevoaei / CC by SA 4.0 license